The last big thing was green tech – from wave-power generators to the smart grid. Hyped in the bipartisan stimulus bill, it promised gobs of jobs, billions in revenues, and untold riches. Private investors plowed in billions too. It ended up in a massive pileup of capital destruction. Fatalities were everywhere.
The Dow and S&P 500 are stumbling like drunken but determined sailors from one all-time high to the next, despite lousy employment and economic data, and declining corporate revenues. Bonds have done the same, and their 100-year graph has assumed the terrifying shape of open crocodile jaws, worse even than in 1999 and 2007.
On paper, Apple has no reason to borrow. Last time it issued bonds was in 1996 when it flirted with bankruptcy and absolutely had to get its hands on some moolah. After Steve Jobs returned in 1997, Apple wisely stayed away from Wall Street and did its own thing. But that era is over. And a new era is dawning upon the icon: Wall-Street engineering.
Some of the crown jewels of corporate America have reported declining revenues and earnings, and have lowered their forecasts, and in doing so, have unleashed a flood of obfuscation and excuses – from Easter falling on the wrong date to lazy sales reps. So when Caterpillar reported on Monday, it was almost refreshing in its unvarnished ugliness.
The craziness on Wall Street, the reckless for-the-moment-only behavior that led to the Financial Crisis, is back. This time it’s Citigroup that is once again concocting “synthetic” securities, like those that had wreaked havoc five years ago. And once again, it’s using them to shuffle off risks through the filters of Wall Street to people who might never know.
At the CPAC, as Republicans struggled with the future, some speakers drew crowds of over 1,000 people. But Dallas Fed President Richard Fisher was shuffled off to “an out-of-the-way ballroom” with barely two dozen people showing up; yet he’d talk about “the injustice of operating our economy under the thumb” of too-big-to-fail banks.
Contributed by Chriss Street. The SEC determined that Illinois violated Federal Securities Laws by misstating the financial condition of its depleted pension funds when it sold $2.2 billion in bonds from 2005-2009. After a historical failure to fund the pension systems, it exposed the State to an $83 billion unfunded liability. Former Democratic Governor Rod Blagojevich was unable to comment. He was in prison.
By the irony of timing, the Dow hit an all-time high as markets opened. Exuberance wafted through the air. Hype was flowing thickly. Happy days were back. New highs beget new highs. And everyone knew why: the Fed’s money-printing and asset-purchase operations. By the irony of timing… because 30 minutes later, kitchen-table reality polluted the scene.
Investors are fuming. But traders, the lucky ones who got the timing right, love it. So do Wall Street firms that shuffle companies around. For decades, Hewlett-Packard did what they wanted it to do: swallow other companies, whole or in pieces, spit out some mangled limbs, and dump tens of thousands of employees. But someone ended up holding the bag.
Contributed by Lee Adler, The Wall Street Examiner. The Fed is growing deposits far faster than banks can deploy them, or than the economy can use them. It is growing them far faster than anybody wants or needs. And so, there are “hundreds of billions of dollars of potential fuel unused.” Therein lies the potential for big problems.